Aug 28, 2015

7 Random Pictures

Sofie the Dreaded Jungle Basset shows off her Amazing Ears. We tease her a lot that she needs to be sure and stay indoors on windy days!

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This was going to be Kaytie's "last day of VBS ever as a kid" picture, but then we went to another VBS, so this is just a cute picture of her. :)

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Abbie likes hanging out all chill.

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The fire died down but they still had marshmallows to roast! Hot air and leathery lungs to the rescue!

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These are play glasses. She wore these for days. Until I took her picture because she looked so adorable. Then she stopped wearing them. :(

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These are fake glasses. He wanted his picture taken because his sister got hers taken. This is his goofy side. 

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These are not play glasses. He got glasses this summer. Doesn't he look smart?

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Aug 9, 2015

Farewell to Summer

Even though it is still very hot here in West Texas, our summer is almost over. The baby that we babysit comes back on Wednesday and we start school on the 17th. I am actually more than ready. This summer was our longest break from school ever, and it has been packed full of activity.

We went to four different Vacation Bible Schools. Kaytie attended her last one ever as a kid.


Nate went to Scout camp for a week. Kaytie went to horse camp two mornings.


We had a cousin come visit for a week; Granny stayed with us for two weeks, Papa for a couple of days, and another cousin spent a month with us.


We celebrated the 4th of July and Cow Appreciation Day.


We took advantage of our theater's summer program where you can go see older movies for a dollar a head. We swam for untold hours. We stayed in contact with friends through playdates. There was tree climbing.


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The boys obsessed about insects. Everybody rode bikes, made popsicles, and jumped on the trampoline. There was stargazing, supper grilling, and book reading.


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We enjoyed sitting around the fire pit and making s'mores.


Nate discovered fishing and the whole family became obsessed.

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Kaytie participated in the library talent show and made us all proud.


This started a steady diet of story writing. She has written a whole book of stories now. 

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There was a plethora of Lego building.


And the Dreaded Jungle Basset wore plumb out.



Aug 4, 2015

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Funtastic Unit Studies

I might have mentioned before that science is our favorite subject around here. In fact, we do science for the fun of it, and often without any sort of instruction or guide. We just explore the world around us. So we are always ready to try something new in the world of science. I had never heard of Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers (put out by Funtastic Unit Studies ) before, but when we were asked to review it, I was more than happy to give it a try.


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It's a thick, soft cover book, and contains 20 different unit studies. The book is written to the teacher and is not intended for the student to use independently. It is meant for students ages 4 to 13. That sounds like a huge gap, but the units are actually divided into either ages 4 to 7 or ages 8 to 13. There are ten of each and they are clearly labeled.

The units cover topics such as Human Body, Insects, Stars and Planets, Weather, Simple Machines and Chemistry Fun. As you can see, there is a wide range which would be perfect if you are the type to want to explore a bunch of different topics.

Each unit starts with a materials list. I had little problems filling the lists with stuff we already had around the house. We did substitute a few things and there were a few things we did have to go out and buy, but even those were easy to get. There is a unit on microscopes that we skipped because we don't own one... yet.

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building the water molecule

Actually, we originally skipped over all the 4 to 7 units because my youngest is 8 and they looked like they would be perfect for 4 to 7 year olds. And therefore, too young for us! After we had done the other units, however, my 8 and 9 year olds did go back and do a few of the activities from those units. I basically just let them pick and chose fun stuff to do without any formality.

The units typically have about eight pages of information and activities. It starts with a short introduction and then is divided into several short lessons called "parts". First you read a paragraph or two to your kids and then you do an activity. Everything is clearly marked and labeled and explained so it is easy to know what to say and how to do each activity. There are plenty of diagrams and illustrations for those of us who need those visuals.


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examining salt

I found Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers to be quite easy to use. The kids and I would spend a few minutes gathering up the supply list and then we would gather around the table (or head to the backyard, depending on the unit) and get to work. I read the information aloud and then told them what to do for each activity.

At the end of each of units for the older group, there is a test, quiz, or some sort of review. These are purely optional, but my kids rather enjoyed them. The answers are in the back of the book.


launching a rocket ship

Now, we are die-hard science geeks enthusiasts so keep that in mind when I say we found it a little "light". Most of the information given was stuff the kids already knew and I had to present it in a "fill-in-the-blank" manner just to keep their interest. I believe, though, that kids who are not "into" science or who have moms that aren't (ahem) would learn a lot of new things.

We did enjoy the activities. It was fun to split light, play with simple machines, build a wind vane out of a straw, and signal each other with flashlights as we pretended to be fireflies.


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showing off her carbon dioxide molecule


And if you are a science-phobic mom, this would be the perfect book for you. It leads you carefully by the hand and offers plenty of engaging projects that teach science without making a huge mess or blowing something up. The bits of information don't require too much reading, but would most likely offer an incentive to your child to dig a little deeper and find out more.

We were able to gulp down a unit in a sitting or two, but you could easily take your time and draw out a unit for a week or more.

If you aren't sure if this book is for you, here are a couple of units you can check out for FREE!

Funtastic Unit Studies Review



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Jul 30, 2015

Schoolhouse Review Crew: With Lee in Virginia

Heirloom Audio Productions is a favorite company of ours. None of us are auditory learners, so we don't spend a lot of time listening to to audiobooks, but all four of my kids willingly gather into the living room so we can spend an hour or two listening to an Heirloom Audio Productions CD. This month, we've been listening to With Lee in Virginia which we were asked to review for you.


Heirloom Audio Productions produces Audio Adventures, which contains music, sound effects, different voices, and is a performance rather than someone just reading the book aloud. This adds so much richness to the experience. I feel it also stretches my kids' minds because nothing is explained or described. They have to use their imaginations to picture what is happening and also to pay attention to catch all the nuances of the action.

Heirloom Audio Productions puts out a quality product. They use seasoned actors for their voices, actors whose names you will probably recognize, like: Kirk Cameron (and his son, James), Sean Astin, Jim Weiss, and my personal childhood favorite... Chris Anthony! What fun to recognize her voice!

In the past, we have enjoyed and reviewed both Under Drake's Flag and In Freedom's CauseWith Lee in Virginia  was just as delightful. I didn't have to tell the kids twice to gather up something quiet to do and meet me in the living room. I popped the CD into my laptop and we spent the next hour with the young hero, Vincent Wingfield, his friend Dan, J.E.B. Stuart, Robert E. Lee and many others as they experienced the events of the Civil War.

At the beginning of the story, Vincent, a young plantation owner struggles against the evils of slavery and even helps a neighbor's slave (Dan) to run away to freedom. He then joins the Confederate Army and the story of the war is told from his perspective as he is wounded, watches friends die, and struggles with the meaninglessness of it all.

I don't want to give too much of the story away, so I will focus the rest of the review on the extras that come with the CD and with what we learned from it all.

When you buy the CD for With Lee in Virginia, you receive seven bonus features:


  • an MP3 Download (I like not having to worry if my kids get too rough with our CD, ok, ok, not "if"... "when"... because we have a backup)
  • the original Henty book in ebook form with a colorful formatting and graphics. It's really a pretty book
  • the official soundtrack
  • a full-color cast poster that you can print off
  • a full-color poster of Robert E. Lee's famous quote: Do your duty in all things. You can not do more. You should never wish to do less.
  • unlimited access to the newsletter website
  • a download of the study guide and discussion starter
This study guide is 52 pages long, full-color and sprinkled with photographs, drawings and illustrations from the Civil War era. It has a map and some biographies in the beginning. The study guide itself is broken up into tracks. There are 12 tracks on the first disc and 14 tracks on the second disc. Each track has a series of questions that are either intended to see what the child remembers about the story, or to help him/her dig deeper into the meaning of the story. Most tracks also have vocabulary words to discuss and define.  

At the end of the guide is:
  • a bibliography for learning more about General Lee
  • two short Bible studies. One on "duty" and one on "loving your enemies"
  • a brief discussion of Sectionalism (how the differences in geography led to the differences that led to the War)
  • a discussion of slavery in the Bible and how the New Testament moved societal norms away from an acceptance of slavery
The guide is heavily sprinkled with inspiring quotes from the faith-believing Confederate generals, my personal favorite is Stonewall Jackson's quote, "Duty is ours; consequences are God's."

This was an easy product for us to use. The kids found something quiet to keep their hands busy: Lego; sorting fishing tackle; drawing; and jigsaw puzzles. We divided the listening up into two parts, listening to each disc in a sitting, and then we recalled events; discussed themes, intentions and underlying meanings; and defined vocabulary words as led by the study guide. The kids enjoyed looking at the pictures and reading the quotes as well.

As with all the other Heirloom Audio Productions stories we have been privileged to listen to, we highly recommend With Lee in Virginia.

With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review


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